Archived Post December 2008

December 2008


The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. 
~Erma Bombeck ~

            Our drive home is slow.  We are stuck in a haze of red tail lights and freezing rain, crawling along from state to state, with the thermostat moving only one or two degrees as we head south.  I have left New England with the flu and Kate will drive us home, except for the last few hours which I drive, as she sleeps, while Luis keeps me company, until my cell phone dies.

            It has been a fine trip.  As expected, the road has brought me to the unexpected and then back to the expected.

            Besides seeing the 9-11 memorial, at the Pentagon, we also visited the National Security Administration Museum, one of those places Kate has wanted to stop at, for years.  It was a wonderful experience – I actually got to touch a German Enigma code machine!  The docent provided us with an in depth tour, answering every question posed – well except those asked by Kate, where his response was always, I believe that material is still classified.  She was the proverbial kid in the candy store.  Having studied and written about so much of the material, covered by the museum, she floated through the exhibits readily adding additional information, enhancing the tour by her glowing remarks and smile.

            We also visited the Newseum, which was not as expected, and went to the reopening of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where Old Glory was on display.  We had seen them refurbishing her last year or perhaps the year before – she is now laid out in all of her splendor, beautifully restored.  We toured Annapolis, walking around the Navel Academy, on a chilly afternoon, feeling prouder than peacocks that we are part of this amazing America.

            I have fallen in love with Annapolis; I even like the city’s name.  It is one of those American seaside gems with coble stone streets, colonial houses, and quaint shops and restaurants that make you linger in front of real estate office windows and wonder about the possibilities.  The young sailors dressed in their uniforms also give you a tremendous feeling of pride and hope in our nation’s future.          

            We leave Annapolis planning to head to Baltimore, but Kate suggest that we see Gettysburg, another one of those places that we have always wanted to tour, and never seem to have the time.  Gettysburg brings us to the President and Mrs. Eisenhower’s home, which I also did not expect to see.  After having seen his boyhood home and Presidential library this summer, which truly gave President Nixon’s Library a run at the top spot on my list of presidential sites, seeing the farm that President Eisenhower retired to is well worth the detour. 

            Our last stop in Pennsylvania is a drive by Hannah’s school.  It is late, and only the full moon is awake, but I look at the campus and feel that my youngest niece is safely tucked away and that all is well.  She will soon join us in New England, for Thanksgiving, and share her tales, confirming my suspicions – she is happy, and just where she should be. 

            New Jersey welcomes us for a quiet night, and then on to Connecticut where we stop for lunch and a visit at Mark Twain’s home which is quite remarkable with its hand painted murals and delicate wood work.  Our tour guide makes me realize how little I actually know about Mr. Twain, and I feel grateful for such opportunities to be enlightened.  This is my trip without my trusted AAA Trip-tickets, as Kate has taken over navigation with her GPS.  I miss my maps and guidebooks, but I have also enjoyed the not knowing. 

            It will be nightfall before we arrive at Caroline’s home in Massachusetts.  We will say hello, deposit Merry in my Mother’s room, and then settle in around the kitchen table.  Caroline and Doug eat late, and they have been waiting for us.  It will not be long before that wonderful familiar feeling washes over me – this is what I most miss about my family.   My family likes to sit around the table talking, eating, and playing games.  How wonderful and familiar it is to sit down to a solid table, laden with home cooked food, and most importantly, stimulating conversation. 

            We are, as a family, a highly imperfect group known to be maddening, most especially to each other.  We have all survived our fair share of sorrows and I sadly feel that no one has hurt us more than each other.  Yet, if I had to be stranded on a deserted island, this is the group that I would want to be stuck with.  It would not take long for Kate and Juan to figure out how to construct some sort of shelter, with running water and working facilities.  Caroline, Allison, Kyle, and I would start to work on what we were all going to eat and drink; while my Mother and Beth would set up a clinic to deal with any medical concerns.  Joy, Doug, and Hannah, would then begin to focus on our stage.  They would figure out the much needed table and entertainment – music, games, plays, debates, lectures, and of course church.  I honestly do not think we would miss the outside world for a very long time.  I am feeling very thankful.

         Our week in New England goes too quickly.  We continue to enjoy meal after meal around Caroline and Doug’s table, keeping them up till three and four o’clock in the morning.  I love that I come from a family of night owls.  We are at our best at midnight. 

        Thanksgiving day we move to Maine, to Joy and Juan’s.  Once again, Juan has prepared our Thanksgiving feast of Turkey and Ham.  Not only can Juan build a house, but he is also a very good cook – another quality that I love about my family.  No one is single minded in their talents or interest.  On that deserted Island, Joy, Juan, Beth, Kyle, my Mother, and I would also plan and nurture a garden.  There would have to be an artist studio, for Allison to paint and Caroline and Hannah to write and act, and Joy and I to make our paper creations, and Doug to play his music; and somehow Kate would have to create a way for the entire bunch to hook up to the Internet to keep all of those face book pages updated. 

        After our Thanksgiving dinner, Kyle brings out the games.  I am proud of Beth, my oldest niece; she has married well – a man who understands what matters.  He has baked pies and brought games and come ready to debate the elections.  Kyle fits in perfectly in our imperfect family.  We are a small family, it matters that the girls have absorbed the values which matter most.  I look at the next generation and I feel peace.  Above all else, they all love God, and want their life to matter to God – I should not be so bold to ask for more, but I do. 

         Beth and Kyle, and Allison have all taken their first trip to Europe this year.  I am proud.  I watch Allison hand my Mother a hand made lace handkerchief, which Allison purchased in Italy.  It is a perfect gift.  Joy has instilled in her girls the love of such things, which my Mother instilled in us.  My Mother is touched and will continue talking about the handkerchief for days and weeks.  Hannah’s time will come, but she is only seventeen, though she did sing in New York City, a few weeks ago, with her college choir.  The girls have inherited their grandparents’ lust for life – they want to serve God, they want to travel, to study, to create, to grow, to learn.  They are smart, and verbal, and political – even if I disagree with them, I love that they hold their own and even that they disagree.   It is a perfect Thanksgiving.

          Our last night is spent in Portland, at Beth and Kyle’s apartment.  Joy and Juan have joined us, as has Allison.  Yes, we sit around and talk and eat and play games.  Beth and Kyle are the perfect host, but it is late and they teach a Sunday school class in the morning – I am also starting to feel unwell.  I do not want to leave, but I know our trip is drawing to a close.  It is going to be okay.  I love who they are, even when I disagree.  I look forward to seeing who everyone will become – another thing which I love about my family, I do not think any of us are ever there, I think we are all still striving to reach what may be unattainable goals, but we are a family of the journey not the destination.  I look at my Mother, at 77 and still wonder what awaits her – I do not believe she is finished becoming.  I have hope.  I have thanks – that is all for now.

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